The ABCs of language stimulation

August 22, 2017











Delayed language development is a common developmental disability. A 2012 survey revealed that 10% of children in Quebec had a problems with cognitive and language development, or with the development of their communication skills and general knowledge1.

It is well-known that early intervention has beneficial effects on all areas of child development2. Additionally, parental involvement is key to improving the language situations to which the child is exposed3. Here are few ways that people who are close to a child (parents, family, educators, etc.) can help stimulate language development.

Put yourself on your child’s level, look at them and encourage them by smiling when they try to talk.
We tend to speak for our children. Wait 5 seconds after asking a question or making a statement so that your child has time to express themselves.

Talk about everything your child can see. Give names to everything you and your child are seeing and doing, and follow your child’s interests.
If your child points a dog in the street, instead of talking about the car passing at the same time, describe the dog and its actions: “That’s a big brown dog. The dog is barking and panting.”

Wait for your child to ask for things.
Put your child’s favourite toy nearby, but just out of reach, or “forget” to give them a spoon with their yogurt.

Ask multiple choice questions so that they have to answer with a word.“Do you want juice or milk?”
Place the object the child wants near your face so they can see your mouth moving and hear the word at the same time.

Asking questions is good, but don’t ask too many! Statements are even better than questions, because they act as a model.
Instead of asking “What is that?” or “What colour is it?”, comment on what you see: “It’s a big dog!” or “It’s purple!”

Add words to your child’s vocabulary by expanding on what they say.
“Daddy car” “Yes! That is daddy’s blue car. Daddy’s car goes fast.”

If your child has problems pronouncing a word, repeat what they say with the right words, without asking them to repeat.
Don’t pressure them. After all, communicating is easier when everyone has fun.“Eat pasketti” “Yes! I eat spaghetti”

You don’t need to take time out of your already busy schedule to work specifically on your child’s language. Instead, use your daily routine (meals, getting dressed, bath time) to your advantage. In all of these situations, your child will be exposed to the same vocabulary and sentence structures over and over: ‘’I wash your legs, I wash your hands, I wash your tummy…’’ It will help them learn new things.Finally, reading is a great way to encourage your child’s language development. Try adding a book to your bedtime routine!Remember: this is general advice and is not a replacement for an intervention plan made by a speech-language pathologist to meet your child’s unique needs. If you have any doubts about your child’s language development, consult a speech-language pathologist!

  1. Institut de la statistique du Québec. Enquête québécoise sur le développement des enfants à la maternelle — 2012. Portrait statistique pour le Québec et ses régions administratives, 2013. Online. Consulted on April 13, 2017.
  2. Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Les services intégrés en périnatalité et pour la petite enfance à l’intention des familles vivant en contexte de vulnérabilité – Résumé du cadre de référence. 2004. Online. Consulted on April 13, 2017.
  3. LEFFEL, K. and SUSKIND, D. Parent-directed Approaches to Enrich the Early Language Environments of Children Living in Poverty. Seminars in Speech and Language. 2013, vol. 34, no 4. Online. Consulted on April 13, 2017.
Special thanks to the clinicians and professors involved with the speech-language pathology Master’s program at Laval University for sharing their early childhood knowledge and experience!